Pandora Radio’s Limited Skipping Rule

March 25, 2012

During the work week, I have a 1-hour freeway commute from home to work and I often listen to Podcasts to keep me from going insane. When I can’t find a good Podcast, I’ll often use the Pandora Radio app on my Android Smartphone to listen to music tracks since I hate using my car radio (with all commercials, commentaries, etc). Unfortunately, you can only skip 6 songs per hour with the free version, and I also learned this limitation applies for the subscription version ($36/yr) as well.

As an alternative, I discovered that the service called Spotify has similar capabilities as Pandora Radio, but it has unlimited skipping of songs. I tested it out on my iMac and Android smartphone and it seems to work pretty good. The big issue I had initially with Spotify is that it was trying to use my seldom-used Facebook login details to log into Spotify. I suspect Spotify can be tied into Facebook where all your “Friends” will know what music you’re currently listening to. A bit too Big-Brother for my taste.

So, I’m going to give Spotify a try and see how well it works. One thing I immediately noticed is that you can very quickly skip songs as compared to Pandora Radio which takes about 5-8 seconds to skip a song.

Streaming Videos using Apple TV

March 25, 2012

My wife and I normally don’t have time to watch live TV shows, so we resort to recording videos using our Macs and the EyeTV HD external device. Then later we watch our videos on our respective computer screens, iPads, Android Tablets, etc. As you may have read from my previous posting, I like to stream my videos from my iMac to my Android Tablets at home for viewing.

We recently decided that we wanted to find a way to watch our recorded videos on a big-screen TV in our main living room. Unfortunately, our living room doesn’t have a coaxial cable jack so we can’t hook up a TV to it. But, after some exploration we determined that we could connect an Apple TV device and stream videos from our iMacs to a connected TV very, very easily.

So we simply connected the Apple TV to our new Visio 42″ LCD TV via the HDMI port, adjusted a setting in the iTunes application running on my Wife’s iMac to allow for file sharing, and started up the Apple TV interface app on our LCD TV. Next, we scrolled over to the “Computers” icon and clicked it with the Apple TV remote, and was able to scroll through all available video files on my wife’s iMac. Then we just selected a video and it started playing on the TV!

Very simple to setup and use. So, we have video files streaming across our home WiFi network from my Wife’s iMac to the Apple TV, and the videos are played on the TV screen. No cable TV connection required. In addition, we can stream any music from the iMac to the Apple TV and hear it from the TV’s speakers as well.

Netflix is also available through the Apple TV in case we wanted to stream videos from the Internet to the TV screen. Very much worth the $99 for the Apple TV device.

Streaming Videos from Desktop System to Android Tablet

March 25, 2012

I own both an Acer Iconia A500 Tablet and an Amazon Kindle Fire, with both of them using the Android OS. I use both of them primarily for web browsing, but their secondary purpose is for watching videos. I have a Netflix account and I love streaming videos from the Internet to my two tablets while I’m home, often watching videos on the couch or in bed.  I also have an EyeTV HD device connected to my iMac and Cable set-top box for recording TV shows in mp4 format.

For watching my recorded videos, I usually use the WiFi-enabled app called WiFi Explorer that allows me to transfer files wirelessly from my iMac to my Android tablets via a web browser on my home wireless network. It works fine, but does take a while for the file transfer and requires me to manually do the transfer. Also, for my Kindle Fire I don’t have a lot of available storage space so I can only transfer a limited number of videos to local storage.

Luckily, I found a way to stream the videos directly from my iMac to my Android Tablets without having to transfer files. The method is described in this forum posting. Basically, I use an Android File Explorer app called ES Explorer (free) which allows me to access my shared files on my iMac (which is acting as a file server on my home network). I just to the folder where I have my mp4 video files, do a tap-n-hold on a desired video file to display the popup menu, and select “Open As”. I then tell it to use the built-in ES Video Player and away I go!  I’ve got my selected video streaming from my iMac’s shared folder, through my home WiFi Network to my Kindle Fire. I can do the same thing with my Acer Iconia Tablet and Samsung Smartphone.

The transfer speeds are very good, and I don’t see any lagging. I can also grab the scrub bar and move forward through the video to skip commercials. You just gotta love WiFi and file sharing!